A new study finds no evidence the drug hydroxychloroquine helps very ill Covid-19 patients survive better or escape the need for a ventilator to help them breathe.
"The patients who got the drug did not fare any better or any worse than patients who didn't get the drug," Neil Schluger, professor of epidemiology and environmental health sciences and professor of medicine at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at the Columbia University Medical Center, told CNN on Thursday.
There’s little to support the widespread use of the drug, Schluger and colleagues wrote in their report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine Thursday.
"What we think perhaps the most important take-home message is that this drug is being administered to many, many, many people around the United States and around the world without any robust evidence that it works," Schluger said. "Our data could not demonstrate any association between the drug and an outcome — so our strong feeling is that this drug should not be administered in a routine basis to hospitalized patients."
What is this about: President Trump had urged use of the drug, originally developed to treat malaria and used to treat some autoimmune diseases such as lupus.
The observational study included data on 1,376 hospitalized Covid-19 patients admitted to New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City between March 7 and April 8.
Among the patients, 811 or 58.9% of them were treated with hydroxychloroquine. The remaining patients were not. By the end of the study, 180 patients were intubated and 166 died without intubation.
Once the data in the study was adjusted to compare the groups, the study found no difference in the risk of intubation or death among patients who received hydroxychloroquine compared to those who did not.
"The analysis that we did was to use very rigorous and sophisticated, but very well established, statistical techniques to compare the patients who got hydroxychloroquine to patients who looked just like them and for whatever reason didn't get hydroxychloroquine," Schluger said.
"From that analysis, there appeared to be no association at all," Schluger added. "In a sense, we can't see any association between getting the drug and anything happening to anyone."
The National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration have cautioned against using the drug outside of a clinical trial.
CNN medical correspondent shares study's conclusion: